Career Vampires

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Career Vampires

They skulk in the shadows… sucking the very life blood from your fledgling VO career.

Your time, money and energy… are theirs to consume.

But this is a tale with a twist: You give them all of these, willingly.

Who are these “Career Vampires”?

Even though they disguise themselves, they will mesmerize you into spending more money, giving more time, wasting your vital energy.

How can you avoid these monsters and save your career?

Do the work.
Research each one before you waste your precious resources.
Ask some trusted friends in the industry.
If you have a coach or mentor, they can help you too.
And always weigh what you’re getting out of the deal.
Everyone is different – there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to crafting your career.

Without further ado, BEWARE!!! Horrors lurk below:

The Three Wraiths: Conventions, Classes, Coaches

Each of these wily wraiths will lure you with promises of easy money, contests, prizes, fame and followers. There are a lot of good ones mixed in with a few bad ones. But it only takes one to set you back in your plans. False hope is the bait for their trap… your money is what they hunger for!

Sirens of Social Media (FrankenBook, InstaGolem, TweetZilla)

Like the labyrinth of old, social media sirens will draw you in. Stealing your time. Filling your mind with misinformation. Distracting you from the real work that needs to be done to build the foundation needed for a career. Cast them aside! Or, if you have the strength, be very selective where you roam. Despair lines the cold stone walls of this maddening maze.

Zombies of Your Mind

Sometimes we can be our own worst enemy. Overconfidence and self-doubt are two sides of the same devil’s coin. One will lead you to believe you already know the way forward. The other will cause you to freeze in a downward spiral. We’ve all had these thoughts from time-to-time. Pause… Breathe… Take the hand of a trusted comrade when you need. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Video Ghouls

There’s a trap waiting for you… The idea that the internet can teach you anything! Sure, you can find video tutorials and binge watch until your eyes glaze over. But are you really learning what you need? There is no substitute for real-world experience. Go outside. Get involved with a theatre, improv troupe, or choir. These types of productions will teach you things you can never learn by simply watching videos non-stop. How to be directed. Working with others. Building real characters instead of funny voices. Acting and reacting with other actors. Feeling the audience reaction and feedback. Only the light of day can banish the dark reaches of the Video Ghouls!

Have you encountered any of these?
Perhaps you’ve run into some I haven’t mentioned here.
Help me to warn others with a career saving comment below!

 

All content written and voiced by Joe J Thomas online at: JoeActor.com

 

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Is This Scalpel Good For Brain Surgery?

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Is This Scalpel Good For Brain Surgery?

(When questions and answers go awry…)

I often find myself frustrated by many of the questions and answers posted about Voice Acting on online forums.

What’s this got to do with Scalpels and Brain Surgery? Everything!

There are 4 parts to what I consider a good, helpful Q+A:

  • The person asking the question (background, experience, etc.)
  • The person answering (background, experience, etc.)
  • The question itself (researched, specific, unambiguous, etc.)
  • The answer (takes into account all of the above and addresses the issues, possibly raising new questions)

Based on these 4 parts, here are some general thoughts on how we can all do better asking and answering questions (based on the “Scalpels for Brain Surgery” example):

  • Before you ask a question, do some research.
    Many of the questions being asked have been asked and answered. Try searching professional forums on the topic you’re interested in. Look for instructional videos or reviews. Ask a trusted teacher or a professional in the industry. A side benefit of this may mean that you’ll find other answers to questions you hadn’t even considered.
  • Give people some background before asking the question.
    It’s impossible to answer a question if you don’t know who you’re speaking to, or what their experience is. For our Scalpels example, are they a med student? Practicing doctor? Surgeon? Or just an interested non-medical person? Knowing this will make it easier for people to give helpful answers.
  • Be as specific as possible when asking for advice.
    I’ve seen newbies and pros make the same mistake: broad, non-specific questions. Try to narrow down the question before posting it. If you’re not sure how to narrow it, that may mean you don’t know what you’re really after. In that case, go back and do some more digging and research. If you ask a wide open question, you’re likely to get a wide range of useless answers.
  • Find out who you’re talking to.
    This is really important for both the person asking the question (see “Background” above), and for the person answering. After all, if you’re a qualified brain surgeon looking for a real answer about scalpels, you probably don’t want the advice of a med student, veterinarian, or failed top-chef contestant. Beware of newbies answering other newbie questions!
  • Don’t answer questions if you’re not qualified.
    Lots of people are more than willing to jump in with their opinion on any topic posted online. This doesn’t mean they’re qualified to answer. I know it’s difficult, but try to know the limits of your own knowledge. Too much misleading and downright horrible information is being shared as if it’s the truth. Before answering, ask yourself how much you really know about the question being asked. If the answer is “I watched a YouTube once about Do-It-Yourself Brain Surgery”, maybe you should sit this one out…

BTW, this advice is a follow-up to a prior post:
Advice on Advice

So, can we all do better? Yes!

Will we? That’s up to you…

 

All content written and voiced by Joe J Thomas online at: JoeActor.com

 

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Authentic AI Voices

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Authentic AI Voices


(random thoughts from a voice actor)

If you’re a voice actor, I’ll wager you’ve read or been a part of a discussion about AI Voices taking our jobs. Or one about casting for “Authentic” voices for a gig. What follows is some of my thoughts on both topics.

“Authentic” (and other meaningless words)
So, what exactly does “Authentic” mean to you when you see it in a casting notice? The people casting obviously have a reason to ask for “Authentic”. Sometimes it may be that the intended audience is from a particular region and they want to ensure it sounds right to them. Other times, the character is written for a particular ethnicity or sexual preference, etc.

But does that really *mean* anything?!?!? I’m in my 50’s, of Lebanese descent, and was raised in the Midwest. Does this mean I can only play Lebanese guys in their 50’s who are from Cleveland? I worked with a Japanese guy who was raised in Mexico and has a Mexican accent, and a South African who went to school in the UK and has a perfect RP dialect. Are they only limited to their ethnicity or to their childhood accents? And what about anyone with a multi-cultural origin or upbringing?

What is the point of acting? To fully inhabit a character, with all their traits, mannerisms, quirks, etc. To be believable to the audience. For me, that includes the vocal qualities like accent, tone, emotion, etc.

Bottom Line: as a voice actor, who isn’t seen on camera, I should be able to be cast for any role that I can convincingly portray. And so should everyone else.

For those who bring up the very real issue of under-representation for a particular group, I’d say that stems from a lack of opportunity. From the writing, to the casting, and even the funding for projects, whole groups are excluded from even auditioning.

Second Bottom Line: Leveling the playing field means being more inclusive, not less. More opportunity for all, not limiting who can play what. (Shakespeare, anyone? Hamilton?)

AI VOICES (COMING TO STEAL YOUR JOBS!)
AI voices have definitely improved in the 15 years that I’ve been a professional voice actor. They are now good enough to take some of the less demanding jobs. Ones that are just straight information. Phone system prompts. Tech manuals for vision impaired. Voices on trains.

As we move forward into the future, it’s inevitable that AI voices will be doing more VO work. But how much? Will they eventually replace us entirely? I don’t think so. For roles in animation, games, audio books, commercials, etc., where a human voice with emotion and the ability to interpret the subtleties of human interaction in the script is needed, AI will have trouble being believable.

Bottom Line: If you’re doing work that could easily be replaced by an AI voice, now’s a good time to improve your acting skills and make a move to a different genre of VO.

To be honest, I’ve heard my share of really bad Voice Acting… by humans. I don’t know how they got the job in the first place, but if the client sees that AI is cheaper and better, then that’s where they’ll go.

Second Bottom Line: Don’t suck at your job.

Authentic AI Voices
Authentic AI VO Voice Acting

I know AI will eventually replace me as a Voice Actor… but the real question is: Will it have the correct skin color, ethnic origin, religious affiliation, gender designation and sexual preference for the role?

 

All content written and voiced by Joe J Thomas online at: JoeActor.com

 

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I Am Not Don LaFontaine!

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I Am Not Don LaFontaine!


(parody of “I am I, Don Quixote” from Man of La Mancha)

What’s your Impossible Dream for VO?

Here’s a song about mine:

Audio version:

      I Am Not Don LaFontaine! (Joe J Thomas)

 

All content written and voiced by Joe J Thomas online at: JoeActor.com

 

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P2P Sites: Not For Practice

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P2P Sites: Not For Practice

I often see posts on social media where someone who is new to voice acting says that they’re using P2P (Pay-To-Play) sites to practice. Although I understand this line of thinking, that’s not the best way to practice… Here’s why:

The point of practicing is to improve your skills. For acting, a very important component is missing when practicing on your own: Feedback.

Constructive feedback helps to improve your acting ability. It can come in many forms. In an acting class, the teacher will provide feedback and guidance. Coaches perform a similar function, but in a more focused 1-on-1 manner. Performing on stage has many forms of feedback: the director, reactions from other actors in the scene, and the audience.

“So, Joe, what’s the harm in practicing on my own? It’s still practice, right?”

Although it may improve your reading skills and even the speed at which you can scan the copy, it may actually be a detriment to your skills as an actor. Instead of learning where your flaws and weaknesses are and addressing them to improve, you may be blind to the flaws you have. Continuing to practice without any feedback may reinforce your bad habits. Those can be even more difficult to un-learn in the future.

Let’s take the classic “You have a great voice! You should be doing voice acting!”. After hearing that, maybe you become enamored with the sound of your own voice. You join a P2P site “just for practice.” Reading one thing after another in a cool way, or an artificially deep voice, or a style that isn’t used in the industry. Spend enough time reinforcing the idea that this is the “right” way to read copy without any guidance can lead you down a path that will be difficult to correct in the future.

Other examples are speech impediments and thick accents. Learning about the issues that may impede your progress and correcting them early on will make your journey to become a voice actor that much easier.

In my opinion, the best way to a solid career as a Voice Actor is to learn acting first. And that requires training, direction, and real-world experience.

For now, due to the limitations of in-person opportunities, try to find some online ways to play. Improv Zoom groups. Classes. Audio drama (directed). There are even some VO reading groups that meet on a regular basis. These could provide a good start.

Once the pandemic is over and it is safe, get involved with a local theatre. Join a choir. Take some improv classes. Get training and direction and perform in front of live audiences. All of these will improve your acting skills and give you a solid foundation for voice acting.

Best of luck on your journey!
Joe

 

All content written and voiced by Joe J Thomas online at: JoeActor.com

 

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Zuzubaland!

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Zuzubaland!


I’m a Hot Dog… And I finally got to play a Hot Dog too!
Zuzubaland! Hot Dog - Joe J Thomas

Zuzubaland (official site) began as a children’s book in Brazil.
The author, Mariana Caltabiano, then turned it into a cartoon series for Latin American TV, and it was dubbed into English at Bang Zoom! Studios.

The story revolves around a bee named “Zuzu” and her friends in a kingdom of food. Every episode is a fun little adventure (there’s even a witch and her hench-spider!).

Here’s a sample episode from YouTube named “Food House” (I’m the Announcer and Hot Dog):

Zuzubaland’s official YouTube page, and all the episodes so far are here:
Zuzubaland! (YouTube Page)

Zuzubaland! full cast - Joe J Thomas

The show and characters were a ton of fun to record. I hope you enjoy watching… and really hope they make more 😉

Cheers,
Joe

 

All content written and voiced by Joe J Thomas online at: JoeActor.com

 

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Voice Acting: 15 Years of JoeActor!

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Voice Acting: 15 Years of JoeActor!

After 15 years of voice acting gigs, it’s time for a little celebration!

Here’s a collage of a few of my roles so far… Looking forward to many more:

(click on the image for FULL-SIZE!)

Joe J Thomas: Characters (JoeActor.com)

Joe J Thomas: Characters (JoeActor.com)

Top Row: Loken & Krik’Thir & Arcurion (World of Warcraft), Leoric The Skeleton King (Diabol III & Heroes of the Storm), Professor X (X-Men Live!)
Middle: Raven/Schwann (Tales of Vesperia), Tibarn (Fire Emblem), Stormtrooper (Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge), (me!), Ch’Gren (Star Trek Online)
Bottom: Nobunaga (Hunter X Hunter), Professor Oak (Pokémon), Lex Luthor (Mortal Kombat vs. DCU), Namor The Sub-Mariner (Marvel Ultimate Alliance) Yodeling Pickle (Archie McPhee)

 

All content written and voiced by Joe J Thomas online at: JoeActor.com

 

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Nail Clippers from Tokyo

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Nail Clippers from Tokyo

While traveling in Tokyo, I learned a valuable business lesson from a little store in the hotel… all while buying nail clippers.

This was many years ago when my wife and I were vacationing in Tokyo. While I was thinking back on the trip, I realized that one memory stood out.

One evening in our hotel room, my wife tasked me with going downstairs to buy some nail clippers. Seems we hadn’t brought any in our bags (it was allowed back then).

So, there I was, with only the most basic of Japanese language skills… on my own! After making my way downstairs, I found the tiny little in-hotel store. They had all the essentials that a traveler would need: toothpaste, band-aids, aspirin, etc. I couldn’t seem to find the nail clippers.

I walked up to the counter. An older woman sat patiently behind it. We had a short conversation… without words. Finally! My years of pantomime were useful!

She pointed to where the nail clippers were, and I retrieved a nice pink one for my wife.

When I went up to pay, I expected that the woman would just run my card, give me a receipt, and I’d take the clippers and go.

That is not what happened.

After ringing up the bill and giving me the receipt, she carefully took the packaged clippers and wrapped them – very neatly – in a nice paper. She then put this into a small bag, along with some hand-folded paper origami cranes (my wife later told me they were for luck). Then, she folded over the top of the bag and put a small bit of tape on it.

When she handed it to me, I knew enough to bow slightly and say “domo arigatou gozaimasu” and left the store to go back to my room.

It was a short, simple interaction, yet when I think back, there was a lot of meaning to unpack from it.

Here are a few of the lessons I learned that can apply to many businesses:

  • Be kind
  • Know your job
  • Be Helpful
  • Exceed Expectations
  • Have Good Intentions

In the end, it’s these things that people, and your customers, will remember.

The nail clippers were common.

The woman who sold them to me was special.

 

All content written and voiced by Joe J Thomas online at: JoeActor.com

 

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Time Traveler: Month One

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Time Traveler: Month One

One month ago, my wife and I moved from Los Angeles to Barcelona. I’ve noticed advantages and disadvantages due to the time difference.

The following is my general weekday schedule, and below that, my thoughts on how the move has affected me… Forward! 9 Hours Into THE FUTURE!!!

Los Angeles Barcelona Activity
10:00 PM 7:00 AM Rise and shine!
10:30 PM 7:30 AM Morning stretches and hygiene
11:30 PM 8:30 AM Light breakfast; Check emails for auditions
12:00 AM 9:00 AM Walk; Buy daily groceries, bread, snack
1:00 AM 10:00 AM Auditions; Work
2:00 AM 11:00 AM Mid-day snack; Pre-lunch walk
3:00 AM 12:00 AM Other Work Stuff; Creative Time
5:00 AM 2:00 PM Lunch
6:00 AM 3:00 PM More Creative / Work time
9:00 AM 6:00 PM Exercise; Shower + Shave
10:00 AM 7:00 PM Sessions; Auditions; Make it Rain!
12:00 PM 9:00 PM Dinner
1:00 PM 10:00 PM More work (if needed); TV Time
3:00 PM 12:00 AM Bedtime!

This schedule allows me to be available until 3 PM in Los Angeles and 6 PM in New York. For the majority of jobs, that works very well. There are exceptions, of course. I’ve already had one session with LA/Tokyo/Barcelona that presented some timing issues. But I can stand the occasional Midnight-2 AM gig 😉

Positives: Able to handle most jobs and auditions. More relaxed schedule. Greater Work/Life balance. More available for clients in Europe.

Negatives: May miss out on some RUSH!!! auditions. Not available for late day sessions, classes, or meetups.

Other thoughts: With the political climate in the US of A, I found my time being consumed with negative emotions, both my own and others, while living in LA. Since moving, the distance has allowed a greater sense of calm, and a broader perspective. Perhaps it’s because the consequences seem less. Or maybe it’s just not being under a constant barrage of news, posts, and tweets. Either way, I feel it’s better for my mental and physical health. It’s possible the same thing can be achieved without moving. Turn off the TV, social media, etc. But if that were the case, I wasn’t able to find a way to make it work while there.

Next stop… VOTING!

 

All content written and voiced by Joe J Thomas online at: JoeActor.com

 

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Barcelona Booth

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Barcelona Booth

Last week, my wife and I relocated to Barcelona.
(how we did it is at the bottom of this post 😉 )

Since we may be here for a while, I needed a new studio setup.

Here’s some photos (click for full size), and the details on the equipment:
JoeActor Barcelona BoothJoeActor Barcelona Booth doorJoeActor Barcelona Booth insideJoeActor Barcelona Booth bling

The Booth: StudioBricks One Plus (VO Edition)

Comes with lighting, ventilation unit, extra sound dampening, bass trap, table, mic arm, and copy arm.
Overall… Stellar! Super quiet inside. Door handle turns up to seal the booth, down to open. Ventilation has several modes, the lowest of which is inaudible. Lighting and copy arm fit the bill nicely. Can always add more lighting easily.
One added perk: Since they’re made in Barcelona, the manufacturer came out and assembled it (for a very low fee)!
Another added perk: the acoustic foam on the walls has built-in channels for cable runs. So. Damn. Cool.
The only thing I’m not sold on is the Yellowtec mic arm. I’ve adjusted the spring, but it’s a bit hard to get it to stay where I want it to. I’d also prefer something a bit smaller. Might replace it in time…

The Mic: AKG C214

Excellent microphone. Very low self-noise. Picks up every nuance of my voice. Some reviews peg this as being “too bright”, but in my opinion it captures a true representation of my voice. Of course every voice is different, and you may not get the same feel from this mic. But for me, it’s a step up.

The Interface: Motu M2

Beautifully designed. Very low self-noise. Works like a dream. Really like the built-in meters. Also has an on/off switch on the back, and a monitor switch on each mic input for direct monitoring. Recommended!

The Headphones: Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro 80 Ohm

What everyone says about these… yeah, they’re right. Solid choice.

The Cloud: Google Drive (Google One)

A final piece of the puzzle: Inside the Booth vs. Outside.
Google One gives you 2Tb storage for $99/yr.
My fanless laptop inside the booth shares files with my computer at my desk. Everything is backed up in the cloud and available everywhere I need it. Easy.

… And How We Got Into Spain During A Pandemic Lockdown!

At the time of this post (for those in the future), the Covid-19 pandemic is raging. Due to the horrible handling of… well… everything in the US-of-A, most of the world doesn’t want US citizens traveling to their countries. The exception is if you are a national of that country, or happen to have a visa.

My wife and I have what is known as a “Golden Visa” for Spain (mostly thanks to her). It allows us to live and work in Spain and the EU. Getting one is no easy feat, however.

So…

Step 1) Build a time machine.
Step 2) Go back to 2016. Be horrified by the results of the election.
Step 3) Jump through all the hoops needed for a “Golden Visa” (buy property, get health insurance, background checks, bank account, paperwork, visa, residence card, travel to Spain every time something is needed)
Step 4) It’s now 2-3 years later (yeah, lots of hoops)
Step 5) Due to the pandemic, jump through lots more hoops (call the embassy, consulate, lawyers, travel agents, airlines, etc.)
Step 6) Get an impossible Covid-19 test (nasal swab, must have results within 72 hours before flight)
Step 7) Discover Step 6 wasn’t needed (what?!?!?!?)
Step 8) Get baggage opened and everything touched by security to make you feel insecure.
Step 9) Congratulations! You’ve arrived in Spain!

Easy, right?

The take-away: It’s better here. I’m glad I followed my wife’s instincts.

See you in the (remote-er) booth!
Joe J Thomas
www.JoeActor.com

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